Inventories in the U.S. climbed at a slower pace than sales in September, indicating companies were heading into the disruptions caused by superstorm Sandy with little oversupply.

The 0.7 percent increase in goods on hand followed a 0.6 percent gain in August, Commerce Department data showed today in Washington. Sales at factories, wholesalers and retailers rose 1.4 percent, the biggest gain since March 2011, after advancing 0.6 percent the prior month.

The drop in retail sales as the storm struck last month may challenge companies to keep enough goods stockpiled just as spending languishes under the threat of changes in domestic fiscal policy next year. At the same time, preparations for holiday purchases and a need to boost dwindling inventories may help bolster production through year-end.

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